Drinking water or coffee in a car is something many of us do daily, but are we breaking the law?
A Beaudesert man has been fined $173 by Queensland Police for drinking water from a 600-millilitre plastic bottle at the wheel.
Brock Harris had finished a 12-hour day at work when he got into his car to drive home and found his air conditioner was not working.
“I stopped and bought a bottle of water and as I was pulling into my street I was pulled over by the police and told it was illegal to drink anything while driving,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Rebecca Levingston.
“They told me it was classed as not paying due care and attention and hit me with $173 and one demerit point.”
“If it is against the law then I’ll pay the fine, but it’s not compassionate to fine someone on a 39-degree day [for trying to] stay hydrated.
“The policeman told me there was nothing I could do and he was doing his job – but I am going to challenge the fine.”
Queensland Police Superintendent David Johnson, from Road Policing Command, said if a driver is not in control of a vehicle, or is driving without due care, they may be committing an offence.
“There are many people who consume drinks while driving and do it safely in a safe manner,” Superintendent Johnson said.
“For us to issue a fine we have to look at the circumstances to see if the driver’s actions are causing risks to themselves or others.
“Driving without due care and attention was once put before court, but these days it’s a traffic infringement notice that is issued.”
Pets on laps and getting changed at the wheel
Superintendent Johnson said in this instance the fine amount did not correlate with the offence, yet there was a range of offences for drivers that do not take enough attention on the roads.
Driver distraction is considered one of the ‘Fatal Five’ alongside speeding, drink driving, failure to wear seatbelts and driving while tired.
“Having a pet on their lap, driving the car with your knees, putting make-up on or getting changed at the wheel are all ways of being distracted at the wheel,” he said.
“If I saw someone drinking out of a bottle with a straw and they were staying in their lanes observing what was happening around them and had a quick drink and continued on that would be fine.
“But it would concern us if the consequences of their actions caused injury or death to other road users.”
He said drivers need to ask themselves the simple question, ‘are you paying attention to the road and the conditions you are driving in?’
Superintendent Johnson added that the same rules applied for eating at the wheel.